The USA girls began their reign before the competition even began. As in 2011, their dominant performance in podium training foreshadowed an incredible performance in the rest of the Olympics. Some of my favorite moments were of course, a dominant performance on vault and Aly’s bars. I think Aly did the best bar routine I have ever seen from her that day. Pointed toes, feet together – it was awesome!
And apart from Kyla’s uncharacteristic fall on beam, these girls hit every single thing they did on the floor. This is not only incredible, it is intimidating. They sent the message loud and clear that just as in 2011, they came to compete consistently and fiercely.
“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” no more for Aly Raisman, who leaves these Olympics as the most decorated American gymnast including two shiny gold medals of her very own. In today’s event finals, Aly topped off her Olympic journey with a bronze medal on beam, and that very elusive individual gold medal on floor. Finally, Aly stood on top of the Floor Podium with a gold medal, where we all knew she belonged.
There were many tears of joy and moments of heartbreak throughout these Olympics. Aly had her fair share of both. Qualifying in as the first American to the All-Around finals produced both as she reached her ultimate goal and at the same time watched her best friend’s dreams crumble. She went on to lead her team to Team Gold with one of the most dominante performances in women’s gymnastics history. Tears of joy began to flow before she even saluted the judges as she was the gymnast to clinch the Olympic Team Gold. In the All-Around final, Aly was too much of a sportsman to let tears show, but I can only imagine the moment of heartbreak at missing a bronze Olympic medal due to a tie breaker (and an unusual mishap on beam).
Today was a different sort of day. After watching two incredible beam routines by Sui Lui and Deng Linlin of China, all the gymnasts following knew that they had to be perfect to beat them. Even fighting for a bronze medal would require a rock solid performance. And that is what Raisman is known for- giving rock solid performances. As it turns out, her performance wasn’t up to her usual level of perfection, but it was still great. An undervalued D score, which led to a protest, which led to a tie with Catalina Ponor, finally led to a tie breaker that Aly was on the right side of. She finally escaped the vice grip of fourth place and won a bronze on beam. What a beautiful moment.
But apart from a team gold medal, Floor Finals is what Aly came for. She went in to floor finals in 2010 and ended up in that ever present fourth place. In 2011 she upgraded her routine and went into floor finals as the top qualifier. Finally winning her first individual medal, she came away with a bronze. So entering this floor finals as the number one qualifier was a familiar place for Aly. What wasn’t familiar was the performance she gave.
Aly went out and did one of the best floor routines she has ever done in competition. She stuck every pass, did everything with incredible amplitude AND artistry. (For a discussion on what the code defines as artistry, and how Aly fulfills it perfectly, read here). She impressed us, she impressed the judges and she even impressed herself.
In the end, Aly walked away with the gold. After all the hard work, all the almost finishing on the podiums, Aly has a gold of her very own. Here’s to the spectacular, never say die Aly Raisman. We are so privileged to watch you!
The all-around gold medal is the most coveted individual gymnastics achievement. When people refer to the champion, they mean the all-around champion. This Olympic year has an EXCITING all-around competition in store! Most years in women’s gymnastics there is a battle between two, maybe three gymnasts for the gold medal. This year, that is not the case. This all-around final will have five gymnasts who could win the gold medal.
There are twenty- four gymnasts in all who qualified into the All-Around finals. Here are the top five who will be vying for the podium. Who will end up on top is anyone’s guess. Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a wild ride!
Viktoria Komova (60.632/25.7 Qualification)
After losing the gold to Jordyn Wieber last year by the smallest of margins, Viktoria comes into these Olympics ready to do battle – and win. Her slight form hides the incredible power underneath. She dances like a ballerina, vaults with power and grace, swings bars like she was meant to live life in the trees and tumbles on the beam as if she was light as a feather.
Viktoria debuted her amanar for the first time in her senior career during qualifications. Adding that to her arsenal along with one of the most difficult, perfectly executed bar routines in the world right now gave her the edge she needed to qualify in first. Her beam and floor routines are both exquisite, but not very consistent. She tends to either hit or miss on beam and is often plagued with low landings on floor. She will have to bring her best to keep her place at the top of the podium.
Alexandra Raisman (60.391/25.3 Qualification)
Aly is known to be one of the most calm, consistent competitors there is. Long overshadowed by higher scoring teammates, Aly shocked the world and herself by qualifying in as the top American. She comes in with the highest difficulty and most consistency on vault, beam and floor. However, her lower difficulty on bars, along with her poor form on this even is what keeps her from the top of the podium. She was fourth at last years world championships with a horrible mistake on bars.
Aly did the best vault of her career in qualifications, cleaning up her form issues and landing with just a small hop. She did the best bars routine she has ever done by far during podium training, seemingly to finally overcome her form breaks. She is generally rock solid on beam, and has scored the highest floor scores in both the team and qualifications. Overall, Aly does not have high enough difficulty to win gold without mistakes from both Gabby and Viktoria. But her rock solid, consistent performances make her a gymnast you should not count out. After all, as we have seen, anything can happen in the pressure of the Olympic spotlight.
Gabrielle Douglas, USA (60.265/25.3 Qualification)
Gabrielle, or Gabby, has been a rising star this year. Last year, she was known for her high flying bar routine, but her mental game was just not strong enough for her to be an all-around threat. This all changed when she came roaring out of the gate as an exhibitionist at the AT&T American cup. She unofficially (her scores did not count as an alternate) ran away with the gold. Since then, Gabby has been inching away at Jordyn Wieber’s lead in every meet until she finally overtook her by .1 at the Olympic Trials.
Gabby comes in with one of the highest potential start values of the group. She has the physical ability to blow away the competition. What remains to be seen is if she can continue improving her mental game and hit the routines when they count. She qualified in third because of a large error on floor. However, she hit four for four during team finals, and her All-Around score there would have easily won the title. If everyone brings out their best and they all hit, Gabby most likely wins. She will have to keep control of her nerves to stand on top of the podium.
Aliya Mustafina RUS (59.966/24.7 Qualification)
In 2010, Aliya was a star. In fact, it seemed she was on her way to becoming one of the gymnastics greats. Had we ever seen someone who could vault with the power and amplitude she attained and dance like a prima ballerina on floor? Someone who’s beautiful swing on bars was only outdone by her lightness and sureness on beam. Aliya won the all-around. She led the Russian team to gold. She qualified in EVERY event finals and placed on the podium in all but beam, where she had her only mistake of the entire competition. She looked unstoppable.
Unfortunately, an injury has put a serious roadblock in her path to glory. In 2011, she tore her ACL at the European Championships while performing her famous amanar. Her recovery has been difficult. She has grown and is still not used to her new body. But she has continued to train hard.
Aliya has yet to show the level of gymnastics and performance she attained in 2010 this year. She is not competing with the level of difficulty she formerly attained. But Aliya has a competitive drive, a fierceness and focus on the competition floor like few others. She has that undefinable quality and mental drive that propels her to the front. Her team loss will only drive her more. I would not be surprised at all if she ends up on the podium.
Larisa Iordache (57.8/24 Qualification)
Larisa’s junior showings made her highly anticipated as the Romanian all-around contender at the Olympics. She has a charming floor routine, one of the most difficult beam routines being performed at the Olympics, a solid vault and a very decent bar routine. Her achilles heel at these Olympics has in fact been her heel. She has plantar faciitis in her left heel and has not been able to put in a great deal of training over the past week.
This has definitely shown in bother her qualification and team performances. She has not been on her game. Hopefully the additional days of rest and training will allow her to continue on the trajectory she has been on her entire career – a place on the Olympic All-Around podium.
In addition, Deng Linlin from China qualified into the top group. This group will all compete together, starting on vault. It should be noted that Larissa did not qualify in this group and will start on bars. Once again, we all want these women to go out and have incredible, hit competitions!
It’s like Sam throwing the One Ring into the fire, Ron Weasley fighting Lord Voldemort, Robin saving the day. Sidekicks have their own incredible strengths but in the end, they are the sidekick. They are there to provide backup, encouragement and a helping hand. They are appreciated, but they are never the main focus. We identify with them, we love them but still we know, they are not the star. It is the Ringbearer, the Chosen One, the Superhero who is the star in the last battle.
Jordyn and Aly. It is rare that you see one without the other. Aly was listed as one of the four most influential women in Jordyn’s life. Twitter and Instagram attest to the fact that they are the best of friends. But out on the competition floor, Jordyn is the star and Aly is the sidekick. Meet after meet for the last two years, you see them together supporting each other and cheering each other on as Jordyn wins the title and Aly plays a supporting role.
I adore Aly. She is a wonderful girl, an incredible gymnast. But I, along with the rest of the gymnastics world need a little time to absorb this role reversal. Imagine watching a movie where Robin, Ron or Sam were the main character. It would take a while to stop asking where Batman, Harry or Frodo were. That is a bit what the next few days will be like.
I am so excited for Aly. I have been sad that she would not have an opportunity to try for an all-around medal. I identify with Aly more, respect her so much and can’t wait for her to go out and do her best. I have thought for a long while that consistency and mental toughness will rule the day in the pressure filled Olympics over difficulty and past high scores. And though I was not thinking of Aly, truly no one fits that description more than she.
But for today and tomorrow, I mourn the loss of my star. I will spend them readjusting their roles in my brain. Then I will pick myself back up and cheer like crazy for Aly and Gabby. Just as I know Jordyn will.
Earlier this year, I wrote that it was great to have stars like Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber on your team, but that you also needed a rock. Aly Raisman has been that rock for team USA since her senior debut in 2010. She has gone out routine after routine, meet after meet, year after year and hit her routines. Over those years, she has always been in her teammates’ shadows. In the 2010 World Championships, she qualified into the All-Around Finals in third, just behind the current USA “It Girl”, Rebecca Bross. A disasterous mistake on bars, her nemesis, left her 13th. In the 2011 World Championships, she qualified into the All-Around Finals in fourth, also behind the current USA “It Girl”, this time Jordyn Wieber. Another mistake on bars left her fourth.
This year, Aly came in with upgrades on every event, and has even improved on bars. But her lower difficulty on bars usually left her about a point behind Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber. She continued to be the rock, they continued to be the stars.
I often mused with friends about how Aly could legitimately challenge for the All-Around podium if it wasn’t for that awful two per country rule. I lamented the fact that after all her consistency and team leadership, she wouldn’t even get to compete in the All-Around Finals. After all, it was inconceivable that Jordyn wouldn’t qualify, and Gabby has looked stronger than ever in training.
But the inconceivable became reality today as Aly was the highest US All-Around qualifier over BOTH Gabby and Jordyn. With the two per country rule, this means that Jordyn Wieber, the reigning Word Champion will not get to compete in the All-Around Finals. In my All-Around Hopefuls post I wrote: Aly would need someone else to make a mistake to make it into the finals and onto the podium. But her rock solid, consistent performances make her a gymnast you should not count out. After all, anything can happen in the pressure of the Olympic spotlight.
There was no one more surprised than Aly herself in qualifying in first. Over the years she has captured our heart with her humble attitude, sky high tumbling, sweet smile and loyal friendships with the other gymnasts. She continued to do so today, with a response of concern for her teammate and best friend Jordyn Wieber.
Today Aly becomes a star herself. The last two years, the only routines she ever missed on a world stage were bars in All-Around competition. If she can go out in All-Around Finals and be the rock for herself that she always is for her team, she will no longer be Aly the Rock. She will be Aly the Rock Star.
This American generation is incredibly strong and the five member team is made up of young gymnasts. However, they all have a lot of international experience and four of the five were part of last years World Championship team. This team of rookies took Worlds by storm. Even with the last minute loss of their team leader, they had one of the most dominate performances in a long time, hitting every single routine in prelims and in team finals. All but one of the 2008 team made a run for this Olympics, but with the strength and depth of these young gymnasts, were not able to make the team. Follow the link for a more in depth write up on each gymnast.
Jordyn Wieber: Jordyn is in her second season as a senior and is the current World Champion. She competes some of the most difficult skills in the world with dynamic precision and impeccable form. Her weakest event is bars, if you can call an event where you make world finals weak. Jordyn is mentally tough and focused. Her biggest challenge this year will be the pressure of being the one everyone is trying to beat. She will compete all-around in Prelims and Team Finals and will be looking to win the all-around gold. She might make a few event finals as well.
Gabrielle Douglas: Gabby is also in her second year as a senior. She is phenomenal on bars. She SWINGS bars with incredible fluidity, beautiful lines and high flying tricks. Gabby was a bit unpredictable on the other events last year, but really came into her own this year, upgrading on every event, and competing with a new confidence and poise. She capped off the season by winning the Olympic Trials. Gabby will compete all-around in Prelims and will be looking to win the all around gold. She will definitely be competing bars in the Team Finals, and the other events will most likely be decided depending on how Prelims go.
Alexandra Raisman: Aly is in her third season as a senior and is our USA rock. She is so steady and comes through with performances that look just like she practices. She is phenomenal on floor and great on vault and beam. Bars is her nemesis and keeps her from fighting for the gold. Aly continues to improve her form and has some major upgrades on floor- doing some of the most difficult tumbling in the world. She will do all around in the prelims and will most likely be used on beam and floor in Team Finals and possibly vault. Aly will also be looking to challenge for a gold on floor.
McKayla Maroney: McKayla is another second year senior and is the current World Vault Champion. She does the infamous amanar with such ease, grace and an explosion of power, it is in a class of its own. She also has a beautiful, artistic floor routine with lots of difficulty. However, her landings have been fairly inconsistent. She is on the team for one reason, vault. She will compete vault and floor in Prelims and will be looking to win the vault gold. She will compete vault in Team Finals and floor will most likely depend on how Prelims goes.
Kyla Ross: Kyla comes into her senior year as the Jr. National Champion. She was a top all arounder and particularly shines on bars and beam. She is also great on vault. Though Kyla can hold her own in the all-around and on vault in most places, she comes in fourth in the all around and fifth on vault on this team. She will be competing bars and beam in the Prelims and undoubtedly in the Team Finals. She will be hoping to qualify for event finals on those two events as well.
All Athlete Pictures Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
Aly Raisman (USA) 15.8/6.5
Aly has the most difficult floor routine in the world. This is due to her incredible tumbling. She has an original and creative routine representing her Jewish roots. Aly’s downfall is that she doesn’t have the balletic style and form that the international judges look for. It is unlikely that she will score a 15.8 at the Olympics (though I saw that routine in person, it was AMAZING! She is so, so high in the air, it is unbelievable). Last year she qualified first into the floor finals, but finished third. She comes in with an upgraded routine, and her difficulty and sky high tumbling and leaps will help her challenge for the gold.
Jordyn Wieber (USA) 15.6/6.2 or Gabby Douglas (USA) 15.45/6.2
Jordyn Wieber has, in my opinion, one of the most fun to watch floor routines. She brings energy to the floor, performs with her entire being (including her eyes and her smile) and has incredible musicality. She has a lot of difficult tumbling and leaps with a lot of amplitude. However, like Aly she does not have a balletic style. Her toes are pointed, her fingers graceful, but it is not the style international judges appreciate. She too is unlikely to score this high in the Olympics. However, she will definitely be a challenger for the podium – if she makes the finals.
Why might Jordyn not make the finals? A little problem called the two per country rule. Gabby Douglas has been improving on floor each and every meet. She has the difficulty, the form, the amplitude and the flexibility to score well. However, her nerves often get to her, leading to lots of bounces out of landings. Her groovin’ beats also are not likely to win a lot of points with international judges. But if she scores over Jordyn and makes the finals, she will definitely be in the mix.
Larisa Iordache (ROU) 15.3/6.4
Larisa brings a brand new floor routine to the Olympics that is full of energy and incredible difficulty. She is second only to Aly in that department. She performs with a delightful air of freedom and abandon that brings a smile to your face. She doesn’t have the perfect form or the perfectly stuck landings of her other Romanian teammates, but she will without a doubt challenge for the gold.
Catalina Ponor (ROU) 15.275/6.2 or Sandra Izbasa (ROU) 15.1/6.1
Catalina is a worldwide favorite. She performs with a dynamic and aggressive grace that is all her own. In her new floor routine, she plays to the crowd with a swankiness that only she can pull off. Oh, and did I mention she was the 2004 Floor champion? After taking a number of years off, Catalina has come back with a vengeance and looks better than ever.
Sandra Izbasa is the reigning Olympic floor champion. She also brings a new routine to the Olympics, which I happen to love. She has beautiful form and generally sticks all her landings. It will be interesting to see if she make her way into the finals.
Lauren Mitchell (AUS) 15.25/6.3
Lauren brings a very unique style of dance, music and presentation to the floor. She has a highly difficult routine to boot. Though she does not dance with grace and beauty, the judges and fans alike seem to appreciate her originality. Lauren has a hard time with many of her landing/jump combinations, which can make or break her routine. If she hits, she will be challenging for the gold.
Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) 15.1/6.2
Vanessa won a bronze on floor way back in 2006. All these years later, she continues to bring difficult tumbling and has even upgraded. If Vanessa stays healthy, it is likely you will see her in the event finals.
Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS) 15.067/
Ksenia comes in as the 2011 World Champion on Floor. Her floor routine was without a doubt, one of the highlights of the entire championships, and remains as one of my all time favorites. The Russian team has been battling injuries this year and have put in lackluster floor performances. However, that is not likely to be the case at the Olympics. Four of the five gymnasts could easily qualify for finals. Which two will come out on top is anyone’s guess.
Anastasiya Grishina (RUS) 14.933
Anastasiya is the most classical of classical gymnastics. She has perfect form, perfect execution and is mesmerizing to watch as she floats through her floor routine. As I said before, her main barrier to event finals will be her other teammates. So make sure and see her routine in qualifications. You won’t want to miss it!
Victoria Moors (CAN) 14.9/6.1
Victoria currently holds the title for beam dreams all time favorite floor routine. She does one of the best double twisting double tucks there is. She PERFORMS her floor routine as if she is on a stage. And she does it all with beautiful form. She brings an energy to her routine that doesn’t translate through the television, but let me assure you, it is captivating.
Beam. The most precarious event in womens gymnastics always makes for an uncertain finals prediction. The top gymnasts could as easily not make the finals with a fall in prelims as win the event. However, there are some delightful beam routines too look forward to and hopefully we will see them all in the finals.
Larisa Iordache (ROU) 15.95/6.8
Larisa has one of the most difficult beam routines in the world, and as such has posted the highest beam score this year. She is a clear favorite and as all is normal on the Romanian front once again, she rarely misses. She will be hard to beat and is very likely to end up on the podium.
Jordyn Wieber (USA) 15.7/6.4 Lauren Mitchell (AUS) 15.7/6,5, Catalina Ponor (ROU) 15.7/6.5
Of the three, Catalina is the most likely to score this high again. Catalina dominates the beam and is unlikely to make a mistake in prelims or the finals. She is one of the most beautiful beam workers, working with an aggressive style that somehow looks like ballet at the same time. She is a definite contender for the gold.
Jordyn Wieber has yet to hit all her connections in her routine. Her execution is phenomenal, however it is likely that her difficulty will be lower at the games. Still, her steady aggressive style is wonderful to watch. She is very steady on the beam, and it is likely that she will make the finals. Whether or not she is able to keep up with others of higher difficulty remains to be seen.
Lauren has a style on beam and floor that is all her own. She stands out for her original elements that make up her very difficult routine. Lauren has been inconsistent in hitting this routine. If she makes the finals, she will definitely challenge for the podium.
Kyla Ross (USA) 15.5/6.2 or Aly Raisman (USA) 15.45/6.4
Kyla has a beautiful, light clean style on beam. Her movement is not balletic, but it is executed perfectly and is beautiful to watch. However, she has only hit this high of a score one time as she doesn’t always hit her combinations. If she doesn’t hit all her connections, Aly Raisman will likely outscore her. Due to the two per country rule, only one of the two can make it in the finals.
Aly Raisman is the USA Rock. She is does a higher difficulty routine with nary a wobble. Aly is likely to hit and to be consistent. However, she may have a hard time beating out some of the others with higher difficulty and execution. But if they fall, Aly will be right there. Waiting to take advantage.
Sui Lu (CHN) Reigning World Champion 15.35 and Ashleigh Brennan (AUS) 15.35
Sui Lui has one of the most elegant, beautiful beam routines with loads of difficulty. She floats through the air as she tumbles across the beam, but sometimes she floats right off. If she hits she will contend for the podium. If she will hit is anyones guess.
Ashleigh Brennan is another strong Australian beam worker. She is unlikely to contend for the podium but just might make the final.
Viktoria Komova (RUS) 15.325
Viktoria gives you a ballet on the beam. Perfect form, exquisitely pointed toes, everything done with a lightness and air of ease. But there have been few major competitions in the last year where she hasn’t fallen on beam at some point. If she makes her connections and stays on the beam, she could easily challenge for gold.
Yao Jinnan (CHN), Aliya Mustafina (RUS), Ana Grishina (RUS) are also ones that you should not count out of making it into beam finals.
Today feels like Christmas Eve to me. In my family on Christmas Eve, we always got to open up one present. I’d spend hours that day picking out the perfect present to open, creating lots of anticipation for it. This evening, the women compete the first night of the Olympic Trials. We get to open up the first present, but still have to wait to open up the rest. But this first present, it will be awesome and worth the anticipation!
What should you be looking for over the next two days of women’s gymnastics? First of all, sit back and enjoy. Even at the Olympics, you will not see such an amazing display of gymnastics. If you love watching gymnastics for the sake of the high flying skills, breath taking flips and soaring leaps, graceful dance and lovely lines, then today will be a feast for the eyes.
Look for fierce competition. And deep friendships. These girls love and support each other like no other USA gymnastics group I have seen. They are truly best friends. But that doesn’t mean that each one of them won’t give it everything they have to make that team. Every single one of them will be putting it all out on the floor.
Look for the spots that we need to fill in for the “Big Three”. Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman are locks for the team apart from injury. So the next two spots go to the athletes that can best fill in their weaknesses or contribute a higher-scoring event than one of the “Big Three”. The most glaringly obvious spot is on bars. Raisman is weak on bars. Jordyn can compete on bars as a lead off spot, but we will definitely need another bars star to fill in the third team final spot. But look to see what other events we might need someone on. Both Gabby and Aly have been inconsistent this year on their amanars, sometimes not scoring that much higher than a DTY, the vault most of the rest of the teams will be doing. If we want to take advantage on vault, we need three HIGH scoring vaults. Gabby has also been inconsistent on beam and sometimes floor. We will most likely want to put someone else up on beam. However, if Gabby is inconsistent on floor over the next two days, we might need another floor score as well.
Look for the highest scoring bars specialist. Kyla Ross, Anna Li, Rebecca Bross, Bridget Sloan, Nastia Liukin. This is the score we need most, so start filling in the puzzle with the piece that makes the most difference.
Look for the highest value add after that. Up to this point, it has been McKayla Maroney. She adds .7-.8 over using Aly/Gabby’s vault. Look to see if anyone else can add more than that on one or two events combined. Sarah Finnegan on floor and beam. Alicia Sacramone on vault and beam. Another bars specialist.
Put all that together and we will have a good idea of our Olympic Team.
Look to see the honor that it is to all the girls competing. This is an incredibly tough year of gymnastics in the USA and each girl has accomplished so very much just to make it this far. They have so much to be proud of and we should be so proud of them as well! Revel in the fact that you are seeing some of the best gymnastics in the world!